Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Determines Children's Eating Behavior?

As parents and caregivers, we all want the children in our lives to eat a nutritious diet so that they can be healthy and active children.  But we all know that getting children to eat a healthy diet can sometimes be a challenge!  I wanted to share with you an article that was recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  The authors put together a review of the current data on determinants of children's eating habits.  They reported on strategies that worked, and those that had negative effects on healthy eating habits in children.

Here is what they found:
1)  Overcontrol, restriction, pressure to eat and the promise of rewards all have negative effects on children's food acceptance.
2)  Having at least one parent at the family meal is associated with children eating more fruits and vegetables.
3)  Severely restricting the diet of overweight children may cause that child to be more likely to overeat.
4)  The earlier a child is exposed to a wide variety of foods, the healthier their diet is as an adult.
5)  Having fruits and vegetables widely available in your home will increase your child's intake of these foods.
6)  In the same manner, the more "junk food" you have in your home, the more of it your child will consume.

As the authors of this paper put it: "Children like what they know and eat what they like".  In other words, children grow to like the foods that are made available to them on a regular basis and this shapes the types of foods they will prefer for the rest of their lives.

What we need to be asking ourselves about the food environment in our homes is:
  • Are we buying, preparing, and serving foods that we want our children to get in the habit of eating?  
  • Are we practicing the "Division of Responsibility" during our meal service and allowing our children to determine how much they want to eat or not eat, and not pressuring them to eat?       
  • Are we serving a wide variety of foods and introducing our children to many different healthy foods?
Something to think about as we head into a new year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Whole Grain Biscuit Mix

Happy Wednesday!   I made another biscuit recipe this week.  I know that I just shared another biscuit recipe with you, but I really like this one because it is a "mix" that you can store in the refrigerator and use as you need it.  I also like the fact that it has a variety of whole grains in it!  If you don't have spelt flour, and don't want to buy any, you can use additional whole wheat pastry flour in its place.

Biscuit Mix
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup nonfat powdered milk
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
7 Tablespoons cold butter

In a large bowl mix the first 9 ingredients (all ingredients except butter).  Stir well.  Grate the butter into the bowl and toss with the flour mixture to coat.  Using your fingers, break the butter up into small pieces.  Store in plastic zip-top bags in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the biscuits.  (This makes enough for 5 batches of biscuits).

To make one batch of biscuits (about 5 biscuits):
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Mix one cup of the biscuit mix with 1/4 cup of water.  Stir with a fork until just combined.  Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 3/4 inch thick.  Cut with biscuit cutter.  Combine the biscuit scraps and make more biscuits until you use all of the dough.  Transfer the biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Crediting information:  One batch of biscuits makes 12 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Got Leftovers?

Tired of thowing out food?  Wouldn't you rather save money by using up your leftovers?  Of course you would!  So, instead of letting those leftover mashed potatoes sit around in your refrigerator, try featuring them in another dish.  The LeftOver Chef website  makes it easy for you to do just that.  By heading over to their website, you can find several recipes that contain the item you want to use up.  Or, you can browse the different sections such as appetizers, poultry, side dishes, salads, etc., to find a recipe you like.

And what about those mashed potatoes taking up space in your refrigerator?  I typed "mashed potatoes" into the keyword search area and LeftOver Chef gave me 140 choices for recipes!  The website also has articles about using up food as well as a section on food safety, so check it out today.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays-Sweet Potato and Cheese Biscuits

Happy Wednesday!  I have a delicious new recipe to share with you today for Whole Grain Wednesday.  I had a sweet potato left over from Thanksgiving that I was looking to use.  So, I decided to give this recipe a try for "homemade soup and bread night" (otherwise known as Monday at our house).  I baked the sweet potato the other night when I had some squash baking in the oven.  I love to toss sweet potatoes in the oven, bake them, and then put them in the refrigerator.  That way, I have them ready when I need them to add some extra nutrition to whatever I am cooking, or even to my morning oatmeal!

I put the sweet potato into the food processor to make the puree for these biscuits.  Feel free to replace the fresh parsely with whatever fresh herbs you have available.  These are best served right out of the oven or warmed so the cheese is nice and melty!

Sweet Potato and Cheese Biscuits
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons canola oil
3 Tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 cup cooked, pureed sweet potato
2 ounces lowfat cheese, finely diced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spary a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and fresh parsely.  Stir well.  Drizzle in the canola oil.  Grate the butter into the flour mixture and use your fingers to mix it in until the butter is in pea-size pieces.

In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk and sweet potato puree.  Add the sweet potato mixture to the flour mixture and use your hands to gently knead it into a ball.  Add the cheese and continue to gently knead the ball until all ingredients are incorporated.  If the dough is too dry, mix in a little more buttermilk.

Pat the dough out on a floured counter until it is about 3/4-inch thick.  Cut out biscuits in round or square shapes.  Pat the scraps together and cut out the remaining dough.  Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Crediting information:  Makes 30 servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays-Quinoa Tabbouleh

Happy Wednesday everyone, and welcome to Whole Grain Wednesday here on the Healthy Helper blog!

I would like to feature one of my favorite whole grains today, quinoa. Have you tried quinoa yet?  I have shared several quinoa recipes with you already: quinoa salad, green bean and quinoa toss, and quinoa sweet potato casserole.  But today I would like to give you a recipe for another wonderful quinoa salad that I tried recently at a meeting.  Many of the people at the meeting had never tried quinoa before and they loved this salad!  They all remarked about how fresh tasting and delicious it was!  The lady who made it got the recipe from  

Quinoa Tabbouleh  
2 cups water
1 cup dry quinoa
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tomatoes, diced ( about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cucumber, diced (about 1 cup)
2 bunches green onions, diced (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
1 cup fresh parsely, chopped

In a saucepan bring the water to a boil.  Add the quinoa and pinch of salt.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature; fluff with a fork.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, carrots and parsley.  Stir in cooled quinoa.

Crediting information:  Makes 12 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate and 1/4 cup of the fruit/vegetable requirement at lunch or supper for 3-5 year old children.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays-Pumpkin Millet Muffins

Tis' the season!  For buying cranberries and pumpkin that is  :) 

In November when bags of cranberries and canned pumpkin are on sale, I start craving the seasonal quick breads and muffins that I like to bake.  Last weekend I made my favorite cranberry nut bread.  Yesterday, I tried out a new pumpkin muffin recipe that I want to share with you  (it even has two different types of whole grains for Whole Grain Wednesday).  The thing I like best about these muffins is the millet, it adds a nice crunchy aspect!  You can find millet in the bulk bins at Sunflower or Whole Foods.  Millet is a tasty whole grain that can also be used in heartier recipes such as the savory millet patties recipe that I shared previously.

Nutrition bonus: pumpkin's deep orange color is a dead giveway that it is a great source of beta-carotene (vitamin A).  But did you know that it is also a great source of potassium, fiber, and iron? 

Hope you enjoy these "birdseed" muffins! 

Pumpkin Millet Muffins (adapted from Whole Foods Market)
1/2 cup millet
1 egg
1/2 cup lowfat sour cream or plain lowfat yogurt
1/2 cup skim milk
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose enriched flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place paper liners in 18 muffin pan cups, set aside.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the millet and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and just beginning to pop (about 3-4 minutes).  Transfer the millet to a plate to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, sour cream, milk, butter, canola oil, pumpkin, granulated sugar and brown sugar.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cooled millet.  Gently fold into egg mixture until just combined.

Spoon batter into lined muffin tins and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean 20-22 minutes.  Allow the muffins to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Crediting information:  Makes 30 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Nutty Granola

Good morning everyone.  I hope that you are enjoying the snow! 

Today I have a recipe for granola that I would like to share for Whole Grain Wednesday.  I will have to admit that when I first saw this recipe I was skeptical that it would be good because it calls for steel cut oatmeal.  Steel cut oats are so chewy that I expected that baking them in the oven would not be a good idea.  However, this granola turned out to be quite tasty!  The oats, coconut, nuts, seeds and dried fruit are a perfect mixture of crunchy and chewy.   My kids and I love it sprinkled on yogurt,  but I am sure that you could also eat it as a breakfast cereal.  You can adapt this recipe to include whatever type of dried fruit you have on hand, or even throw in your leftover pumpkin seeds from Halloween! 

Nutty Granola- adapted from Potpourri magazine
1 cup steel cut oats
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds 
1/4 cup almonds* or walnuts*, chopped
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/2 cup coconut
1 cup raisins* and/or dried cranberries

Toss the oats, seeds, chopped nuts, brown sugar and oil together in a large bowl.  Coat a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray and spread the mixture out on the pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the oats are lightly browned (check often to prevent burning).  Turn the oven off and stir in the coconut and dried fruit.  Return the pan to the oven until the oven has cooled.  Store in a sealed container. 

*This food can be a choking hazard for children under the age of 4. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Whole Grain Wednedays- Zucchini Casserole

How many of you have gardens?  Those of you who have gardens, how many of you are drowning in zucchini?  I am sure I am not the only one!

I am always on the lookout for new zucchini recipes this time of year.  My family gets weary of the 5 or so recipes that I do have.  So, I was very excited when my dad shared this recipe with me.  I like this recipe because it is quick and easy.  (It does take an hour to cook though, so plan ahead).  Best of all, it is delicious.  Plus, a recipe that includes both whole grains and zucchini is a winner in my book!

Zucchini Casserole
4 slices whole wheat bread, cubed
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the bread cubes into a medium bowl and pour the melted butter and canola oil over the bread.  Toss.  Add the zucchini, onion, garlic salt and egg; mix well.  Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle the cheese on evenly.
Bake, covered, for 30 minutes.  Uncover the dish and bake for another 30 minutes.

Crediting information:  Makes 8 servings.  Each serving meets the bread and 1/4 cup of vegetable requirement at lunch or supper for 3-5 year old children.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Overnight Wholegrain Cereal

You may have noticed that I am a big fan of oats.  I love to make crockpot oats and enjoy many types of pancakes that contain oats (oatmeal pancakes and  marathon (oatmeal) pancakes).  Oats are so nutritious and I like to start the day with them whenever I can.  I love the chewy goodness of steel cut oats, but I also like to use the more commonly found rolled oats.  As I have mentioned before, one of the great things about oats is that, unlike with wheat processing, processing oats does not lead to significant amounts of nutrients being lost.  When oats are rolled, or even made into instant oats to speed preparation time, they are still a highly nutritious whole grain. 

This recipe is adapted from one I found in Cooking Light magazine.  Like the overnight oats that I make, a soak in the fridge overnight makes preparation time a snap the next morning!  You can find steel cut oats with the regular oats at the grocery store, or in the bulk bins at many health food stores.

Overnight Wholegrain Cereal
1/3 cup steel-cut oats
2 Tablespoons uncooked pearl barley
1 1/4 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon chopped nuts* (optional)
1 Tablespoon honey* or brown sugar
Fresh fruit (optional)

Combine oats, barley and the 1 1/4 cups of water in a microwave safe bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, uncover the bowl and stir in the salt.  Microwave for 3 minutes and then remove bowl and stir well.  Microwave for an additional 3 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.  Stir in the cinnamon.  Top with nuts, honey and fresh fruit as desired.

Crediting information:  Makes 5 (1/4 cup) servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children. 

*can be a choking hazard for children under the age of 4 years.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays-Sunshine Snack Bars

We have been battling rabbits in our backyard garden this year!  Sadly, the rabbits ate our lettuce and carrot tops down to little nubs.  We tried some odor repellents, and spraying the plants with pepper spray, but the rabbits were not deterred.  So, we finally just gave up and put chicken wire around the whole garden!

I am happy to say that the carrots have made a full recovery and they have bushy tops again.  I was looking for a snack bar recipe that called for carrots and found this one in Potpourri magazine.  These bars are full of yummy nutritious things!   Quick oats are a whole grain, they have just been cut to make them cook faster.

Sunshine Snack Bars
2 cups shredded carrot
1/4 cup dried chopped apricots
1/2 cup golden raisins*
2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
12 ounces apple juice concentrate (thawed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the carrot, apricots, raisins, oats, and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add the apple juice concentrate and stir well.  Press the ingredients into a greased 9 x 11-inch glass baking dish.  Bake for about 40 minutes or until the bars are brown.  Cool completely before slicing.

Crediting information:  Makes 18 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children.

*can be a choking hazard for children under the age of 4 years.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Whole Wheat Hamburger or Hot Dog Buns

Whole wheat hamburger buns are pretty common in grocery stores now.  But a few years ago, it was really hard to find them, so I thought I would try making my own.  Even though they can be found pretty easily at most any store now, they are still much more expensive than the white variety.  So, whenever I have the time, I like to make my own.  You just can't beat the taste of freshly made buns!

This recipe is for the bread machine (it makes a 1 1/2 pound loaf).   I use my bread machine at least once a week because I like the fact I can just throw everything in and come back later to dough that is ready to bake with, or even freshly cooked bread.   I have two special "bun" pans that I got from King Arthur's Flour to make hamburger buns in, but you can just make bun shapes and bake them on a cookie sheet which works great too! 

Whole Wheat Hamburger/Hot Dog Buns
1 cup water
1 large egg
1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
2 Tablespoons instant potato flakes
1 Tablespoon wheat gluten
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast

1 egg yolk, beaten with a splash of water
Sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Place all of the ingredients in the bread pan according to the order of the bread machine manufacturer's instructions (this can vary depending on what brand of bread machine you have).  Program the machine for the dough cycle and start the machine.

When the machine beeps at the end of the dough cycle, dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into about 8-10 equal portions depending on how big you like your buns.  For the hamburger buns, form each portion into a tight round.  For hot dog buns, roll each portion into approx. 6 inch cylinder.  Place portions in a greased bun pan, or place on a greased baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap and brush rolls with egg mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. 

Bake for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the roll, or until lightly browned.  Remove the buns from the baking sheet and place them on a rack to cool completely.

Enjoy :)

Crediting information:  Makes 48 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children.   

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Corn Macaroni Casserole

What is your favorite part of summer?  I love the warmer temperatures that let us be more active outside, but I probably look forward to the fresh fruits and vegetables most of all!  Right now we are getting some nice lettuce and spinach from our garden which I love.  It is delightful to just go out and pick a handful of greens to throw on my sandwich :)      

Fresh corn is one of the fresh vegetables I really enjoy, but it is not quite time for that around here yet.  So, I made this casserole with frozen corn (but you can substitute fresh corn once it is in season).  Corn is an excellent vegetable to stir into casseroles or other dishes since it is an exceptional source of antioxidants.  One cup of corn contributes about 2,000 mcg lutein which is an antioxidant thought to help prevent age-related vision problems.

Tip: I have found whole wheat macaroni at SuperTarget or King Soopers.

Corn Macaroni Casserole
1, 16 ounce can creamed corn (low sodium if possible)
2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) corn
1 1/2 cups whole wheat macaroni
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1 1/2  cups lowfat shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 Tablespoon butter or margarine

In a 2-3 quart casserole dish, combine the creamed corn, corn, macaroni, milk and 1 cup of the cheese.  Cover and let stand for 1 hour in the refrigerator.  Dot with butter.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until bubbly.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Crediting information:  Makes 12 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate and 1/4 cup of the fruit or vegetable requirement at lunch or supper for 3-5 year old children.

Looking for more recipes featuring in-season vegetables?  Check out Veggies Rule!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Whole Wheat Apricot Muffins

Happy Wednesday!  I did a bunch of baking yesterday since it looked as though it was going to be the "coolest" day this week.  I don't like to heat up our house by turning on the oven for a long time on really hot days because we rely on a swamp cooler for cooling.  Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that the swamp cooler uses way less electricity than an air conditioner!  It works very well, but I don't like to run it for a long time since it does sometimes make our house more humid than I like.

Anyway, my daughter had a bunch of friends over yesterday so I made these muffins for snack.  This was a recipe that was originally from Cooking Light magazine, but I modified it some. If you don't have dried apricots, you could easily substitute any dried fruit that you do have.  The muffins were a hit with my daughter and her friends.  Hope you enjoy them too!

Whole Wheat Apricot Muffins
2/3 cup enriched all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup finely chopped dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly spoon the flours into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, orange rind, baking soda and salt.  Stir well with a whisk.  Make a well in the center of the mixture.  In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, water, butter, vanilla, and egg.  Stir well.  Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.  Stir until just combined.  Fold in the apricots.

Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, dividing equally.  Bake the muffins for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown and muffins spring back lightly when touched.  Cool for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Crediting information:  Makes 26 servings. Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children.

Looking for vegetable recipes?  Check out Veggies Rule

Monday, June 13, 2011

Let's Move Child Care!

You may be aware of the Let's Move program that First Lady Michelle Obama started back in February of 2010. The program was started to help combat childhood obesity.  Well, on June 8 Mrs. Obama unveiled a program that will provide some information for child care providers!  The Let’s Move! Child Care effort will work with child care providers to help children get off to a healthy start. The First Lady released a checklist that providers and parents can use as a tool to encourage healthy eating and physical activity and limit screen time for young children.

“Everyone is going to see that these small changes can make a big difference. If our kids get into the habit of getting up and playing, if their palates warm up to veggies at an early age, and if they’re not glued to a TV screen all day, they’re on their way to healthy habits for life,” Mrs. Obama said. “That’s why I’m so excited about Let’s Move! Child Care – because I know that childcare facilities and home-based providers can be a real building block for an entire generation of healthy kids."

To read more about this program, visit the Let's Move website

Here is a summary of the checklist.  Do you do the following in your child care home?

• Physical Activity: Provide 1-2 hours of physical activity throughout the day, including outside play when possible.

• Screen Time: No screen time for children under 2 years. For children age 2 and older, strive to limit screen time to no more than 30 minutes per week during child care, and work with parents and caregivers to ensure children have no more than 1-2 hours of quality screen time per day, the amount recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

• Food: Serve fruits or vegetables at every meal, eat meals family-style when possible, and no fried foods.

• Beverages: Provide access to water during meals and throughout the day, and do not serve sugary drinks. For children age two and older, serve low-fat (1%) or non-fat milk, and no more than one 4-6 ounce serving of 100% juice per day.

• Infant feeding: For mothers who want to continue breastfeeding, provide their milk to their infants and welcome them to breastfeed during the child care day; and support all new parents in their decisions about infant feeding.

You can also find some free tools and resources at 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Whole Wheat Cinnamon Crunch Tortilla Chips with Strawberry Salsa

Strawberries are everywhere you look right now and I love it!  Fresh berries are my favorite fruits, and I have been eating them as much as I can since they are in season. 

This recipe is one of our favorite summer snacks, and a nice change of pace from your typical chips and salsa. 

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Crunch Tortilla Chips
5 (6-inch) whole wheat tortillas
2 Tablespoons melted butter or non-stick cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar

Brush the tortillas with the melted butter (or spray them with the non-stick cooking spray), and cut them into wedges.  Arrange the wedges on a greased baking sheet.  Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture over the tortilla wedges.  Bake the tortillas at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Let them cool before serving.  Serve with strawberry salsa.

Strawberry Salsa
1 cup chopped strawberries
1/2 cup chopped kiwi
1/2 cup chopped seeded cucumber
1 tablespoon honey*
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl until well blended. Cover. Refrigerate 30 minutes to blend flavors.

*Do not serve honey to children under the age of 1 year.

Enjoy :)

P.S.  If you are looking for vegetable recipes, head on over to my personal blog : Veggies Rule!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Bulgur With Celery & Sage

Happy Wednesday everyone!  Can you believe that it is June already?  Since the weather report is calling for hot temperatures today, I thought I would post a recipe that does not involve turning on your oven. This is a quick recipe that will have you out of the kitchen in no time!  It is popular with my kids since it has the same flavorings as one of their favorite foods- bread stuffing.

If you haven't tried bulgur yet, you should give it a try.  It has a delicious, almost nutty flavor, and a nice chewy consistency.  You can find bulgur at your local grocery store or at any of the natural food stores (Sunflower, Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.).  Bulgur comes in several different grinds- usually fine, medium and coarse.  I prefer to use the medium grind in this recipe, as I find the coarse a little too rough, but use whatever type you like the best.

Bulgur with Celery and Sage
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup medium bulgur
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth. low-sodium if possible

Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add all of the ingredients except the broth (bulgur, onions, celery, garlic, sage, and thyme) and saute for 5-8 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. 

Stir in the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender but chewy.

Crediting information:  Makes 12 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Recipe Finder

Happy Friday everyone!  Since I have been posting new whole grain recipes every Wednesday, I thought today that I would make a list of links to all of the recipes in case you missed any:

Rachel's Banana Bread

Mexican Bulgur

"Fried" Green Rice

Toasted Cheese Logs

Quinoa Salad

Cranberry Wild Rice Salad


Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Granola Cookies

Oatmeal Banana Waffles

What's your favorite whole grain?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays: Oatmeal-Banana Waffles

Today's recipe features the whole grain oats!  Oats are a great grain, because they not only have the benefits found in all whole grains , but they also contain a special type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan.  Research has shown that eating beta-glucan can help you lower your blood cholesterol levels.  Beta-glucan is also beneficial for people with diabetes because it can help stabilize blood sugar levels. 

I like this recipe because it is quick, easy and delicious!

Oatmeal-Banana Waffles (adapted from Potpourri magazine)
2 cups oatmeal
2 cups water
1/2 banana, peeled
2 Tablespoons powdered milk
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Blend all the ingredients in a blender on high until smooth.  Heat a waffle iron on high until hot.  Coat the waffle iron with cooking spray.  Pour batter onto the waffle iron and cook 10 minutes or until browned.  Repeat until all batter is gone.

Crediting information:  Makes 18 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at breakfast or snack for 1-5 year old children.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Granola Cookies

Here is blast from the past, a cookie recipe that was first published by Wildwood back in 1994!  Use a low sugar variety of granola in these cookies, or use the granola recipe that follows to make your own.  These are creditable, but count as a "sweet" (limit sweets to twice per week).

Granola Cookies
1/2 cup honey*
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups low-sugar granola

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the honey and butter together until creamy, add vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients, then stir in the granola.
Drop by teaspoons on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 3 dozen cookies
*Do not serve honey to children under the age of one year.

Creditining information: Makes 36 servings, each serving meets the bread/bread alternate requirement at snack for 3-5 year old children.

3 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup chopped nuts*
1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit*
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons canola oil
5 Tablespoons maple syrup or honey**
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Spread the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Tip:  It is best to rotate the cookie sheet once during the cooking time for more even cooking.

*can be a choking hazard for children under four.
**do not serve honey to children under the age of one year.

Crediting information:  Makes 31 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at breakfast or snack for 3-5 year old children.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Summertime Beverages

One of these days it will get hot (I hope)!  So now is the perfect time to think about refreshing beverages to serve to your children that don't include a lot of sugar.  The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines indicate that added sugars contribute an average of 16% of the total calories in American diets. A shocking 36% of those calories come from sugary drinks such as soda, energy drinks and sports drinks!  This is a bad deal for kids because evidence has shown that our bodies don't "count" liquid calories in the same way as solid food calories.  So, when we drink a lot of our calories, we don't compensate by eating less later.  There are several studies that have shown that children who drink more sugar-sweetened beverages have higher body weights than those who don't.

So what are some options for liquid refreshment?  Water is of course the best choice.  It has no calories and offers our bodies the best rehydration.  If your kids don't like plain water, don't resort to giving them Kool-aid or other nutrient-poor drinks.  Try crushing up a few blueberries or strawberries and adding the juice to their water.  It will give it a little bit of natural color!  I have also had success with freezing blueberries or grape halves in ice cubes and floating them in water for a colorful beverage.  Placing cucumber slices and orange slices in a large pitcher of icy cold water is also quite refreshing.

Don't forget fruit smoothies when you are looking for a thirst-quenching snack.  Smoothies can be quite nutrient-rich if you stick to yogurt or milk and frozen berries, bananas, and other fruits.

Do you need a little help convincing older kids that might be drinking too much sugar?  Try this Interactive Beverage Guide to Sugars.  It is a fun game that helps kids see how much sugar they are getting from the beverages that they drink every day.

Do you have any favorite nutritious summer drinks?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Minute Menu blog for child care providers

Did you know that Minute Menu has a special new website (  full of useful information for child care providers?  You will find some recipe ideas submitted by providers (unfortunately they do not include crediting information), child care forums, a child care marketplace and more.  Here is a post on their blog about food dyes that I like a lot.  You can also "friend" them on Facebook to be alerted to new information on their website.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Online Tool For Your Kids

Do your kids like playing games on the computer?  If you are looking for a computer game that teaches kids something about nutrition, you should check out the  ZisBoomBah website.  Three cartoon ants, Zis, Boom, and Bah help kids make healthy meal choices.  The "Pick Chow" game on the website lets kids drag different foods onto a plate to create nutritious meals. If they are registered on the site, kids can even send the healthy meal suggestion that they create to their parents!   Michelle Obama's Let's Move Campaign recently chose the Pick Chow Tool as the best online tool  to help end childhood obesity.   The website also has recipes, a blog and other healthy cooking resources.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Cranberry Wild Rice Salad

I like to vary the types of whole grains that I eat, and lately I have been trying different varieties of rice.  Wild rice is one of my favorites.  I don't eat it often because it is usually quite a bit more expensive than brown rice, but I found some on sale a couple of weeks ago so I stocked up.  I like wild rice for its nutty flavor and chewy texture!

You might already know that wild rice is not technically a rice, but is actually in the grass family.  It is a whole grain and is a good source of protein, fiber, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, manganese, zinc and copper.

If you don't have wild rice, feel free to substitute brown rice in this recipe!

Cranberry Wild Rice Salad (adapted from Prevention magazine)

4 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cooked wild rice
1 cup fresh (or frozen and thawed) shelled edamame
4 Tablespoons dried cranberries
4 Tablespoons chopped walnuts*

In a large bowl, combine the rice wine vinegar, olive oil and pepper.  Add the remaining ingredients and toss well to combine.  Serve at room temperature.

*Can be a choking hazard for children under the age of 4.

Crediting information:  Makes 4 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Quinoa Salad

I made this salad for the first time last night for dinner.  I am always on the lookout for new quinoa recipes because I love quinoa.  Why?  Because not only is it a whole grain, but it contains more protein per serving than any other grain.  The protein in quinoa is also a very high quality protein for a grain which often leads to it being referred to as a "super food".  I also adore quinoa because it cooks quickly, and I like the fact that it has a nice "crunch" to it.  You can find quinoa at your local grocery store, or in bulk bins at natural food stores.

This salad can be served warm or chilled.  I made it ahead of time and let it chill.  The flavors were nicely developed and my family declared it "delicious"!

Quinoa Salad
1 cup of quinoa
2 cups of vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons black olives, sliced
1/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled

Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse under running water to remove the bitter coating.  Put the quinoa and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook for 10-15 minutes or until all of the liquid has been absorbed.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Combine the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, salt and white pepper.  Whisk together and set aside.

Combine the green onions, tomatoes and olives in a bowl.  Stir in the cooked quinoa and feta.  Give the dressing another whisk and pour into the bowl.  Serve at room temperature or chill.

Crediting information:  Makes 12 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Toasted Cheese Logs

I don't usually post recipes to my blog that I haven't personally prepared, but this week I had to make an exception.  It has been a very busy week around my house.  I don't know about you, but I find that this time of year is a little crazy if you have school age kids!  It seems like the schools are trying to jam lots of events into the last couple of months, and spring sports are in full swing.  Is it the end of May yet?

This is a recipe that I have been wanting to try for a quick snack.  It is adapted from a recipe in Potpourri magazine.

Toasted Cheese Logs
2 cups (8 ounces) lowfat shredded Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon mustard
3 Tablespoons cream cheese
5 thin slices of whole wheat bread, crusts removed

Combine the cheese, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and cream cheese in a small bowl.  Stir well.  Spread on the slices of trimmed bread and roll to make logs.  (You can roll the bread with a rolling pin first to flatten it if you only have thicker bread).  Place the logs on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Toast in a 350 degree oven or under the broiler until lightly browned.

Crediting information:  Makes 5 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 meat/meat alternate and 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Haystacks

For Whole Grain Wednesdays this week I wanted to share a snack recipe.  This is my favorite type of snack, quick and easy!  You do need to plan a little ahead of time for this snack though, because the haystacks need at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator to firm up before you can serve them.

These haystacks were delicious!  I like the fact that they were made with nutritious whole grain cereal that has no added sugar or salt.  I think next time I will have my kids stir in some raisins for a more "peanut butter and jelly" type taste.

Note: Be sure to use the large shredded wheat "rolls" instead of the bite size variety:

2 cups of crumbled shredded wheat cereal
1 cup creamy peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

Have the children crumble the shredded wheat into a large bowl.  Melt the peanut butter and butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Cook and stir until smooth.  Pour the peanut butter mixture over the crumbled shredded wheat and stir until well combined.  Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper.  Put the haystacks into the refrigerator until firm.  

Crediting information:  Makes 6 servings.  Each serving creditable to meet 1 bread/ bread alternate and 1 meat/meat alternate at snack for 3-5 year old children.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- "Fried" Green Rice

Do you ever find yourself with leftover rice?  I had a bunch of extra cooked rice from dinner the other night, and since I am still working on my resolution of decreasing food waste in my home, I was looking to get it out of my refrigerator!  In my quest for a recipe containing cooked rice, I stumbled across this one.  I really like this recipe because it not only used up the rice, but was very delicious.  My whole family loved it!  

*Tip- Don't leave out the sesame oil, it makes the dish!

"Fried" Green Rice
5 ounces fresh spinach, washed (or substitute frozen spinach)
3 large eggs
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon canola or olive oil
3 cups of cooked brown rice
1 teaspoon of sesame oil

Place the spinach in a small skillet with a little water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Steam the spinach until just wilted.  Drain off any remaining water and let cool.  Chop spinach very finely and set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, water and salt until well beaten.  Spray a saute pan or small skillet with cooking spray and scramble 1/2 of the egg mixture.  Set the eggs aside.

Heat up a wok or large skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add the oil.  Add the rice and toss to coat with the oil.  Reduce the heat and cook, stirring frequently until the rice is hot.  Add the remaining egg mixture to the rice and cook and stir.

Add the chopped spinach and the scrambled eggs to the skillet.  Stir in the sesame oil and cook until mixture is hot.

Crediting information: Makes 12 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate and 1 meat/meat alternate at snack for 1-5 year old children.  (Note: if serving at lunch or supper, it counts for 1 bread/bread alternate only.  There is not enough egg to be creditable as a meat/meat alternate at a meal). 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nutrition Games

What do you think about nutrition games that kids can play on the computer or on a gaming system?  Do you think that kids can learn anything from them?

I think that they can, and that they can be a fun part of a child's (limited) screen time every day.  I wanted to share a website with you that has some entertaining games that teach nutrition and other health concepts.

Playnormous (  has several engaging health games that I'll bet your kids will love.  They are aimed at children ages K-5th grade and all come with teachers guides and parents guides that have additional activities to go along with the games. According to the website,  "The Playnormous site was originally created as a way to deliver health games to the public. This process began with the creation of Food Fury, a University of Texas Health Science Center research project funded by the Aetna Foundation."  (They do have some information on the how health games can teach children about good health on the website if you are interested in the research aspect).  

The Playnormous games teach concepts such as the food guide pyramid, the importance of physical activity, and "go, slow, whoa" foods.  The website also has some healthy recipes that look pretty tasty!

Our favorite game is "Pyramid Pile Up Plus"!  What's yours?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays-Mexican Bulgur

When I was in college, one year I had a roommate who ate a lot of Rice-a-roni Spanish rice.  I would occasionally eat it with her, but I found it too salty for my taste.  I was always wishing for a Spanish rice recipe that was still quick and easy, but that I could make with my own fresh ingredients so that I could  control the sodium level.  I finally found that recipe!  This recipe not only includes a whole grain, but it has a lot less salt than the average rice mix.  This is my family's favorite accompaniment to burritos!

Mexican Bulgur (adapted from the Best of Simply Colorado Cookbook)
Note*- Bulgur wheat can be found in the bulk bins at health food stores or often in the grain section of grocery stores (by the rice). Bulgur comes in different "grind" sizes. Get the medium grind for this recipe if you have a choice.

1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (low-sodium if possible)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add onion and green pepper; saute over medium heat for 6-7 minutes (or until soft), stirring occasionally.

2. Add bulgur and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the grains.

3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer slowly for 15 minutes or until the liquid is all absorbed.

4. Serve hot, garnished with salsa if desired.

Crediting information: Makes 12 servings. Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 1-5 year old children.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Do you know your veggies?

Here is a link to a interesting quiz about some uncommon vegetables.  Some of the pictures are from odd angles which can make it harder, but I'll bet you'll learn something you didn't know!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Rachel's Banana Bread

When life gives you overripe bananas, make banana bread!

We eat a lot of bananas in our household.  I buy about 3 bunches every week, but they are typically gone by the weekend so I don't often have brown bananas sitting around waiting to be used.  This week, though, for some reason I did.  So, I mixed up some of our favorite banana bread. :) 

I love this recipe for two reasons.  First, because it is made with nutrient-rich whole wheat pastry flour but still comes out moist and delicious.  And secondly, because it is so easy- you pretty much just dump everything into a big bowl and stir!  You can also add chopped nuts if you like, and sometimes we even sprinkle a few mini chocolate chips on top.   

Rachel's Banana Bread
3 overripe bananas
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup enriched all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mash the bananas in a large bowl.  Add the flours, sugar, baking soda, salt and egg.  Melt the butter in the microwave and add it to the bowl.  Stir until just blended.  Pour into a greased loaf pan (9 x 5).

Bake for about 45 minutes or until  a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Crediting information:  Makes 22 servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any snack or meal for 1-5 year old children. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays-Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines that came out in January recommend that Americans aim to replace the refined grain foods in their diets with whole grain foods.  You might remember that the slogan for the grains group of MyPyramid (which came out in 2005)  is to "make half of your grains whole".  The problem is that most Americans are still not doing this.  On average, Americans eat less than 1 serving of whole grains per day.

What's so great about whole grains?  I have addressed this in previous columns.  Whole grains are another nutrient-rich food!  There is also evidence that whole grain intake may reduce the risk of heart disease, and is also associated with lower body weight.  People who eat more whole grains not only tend to have less body fat but also have less of the dangerous type of abdominal fat too.  Some evidence has even shown that eating whole grains is associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes. 

Sometimes it can be hard to make the switch to whole grain foods if you are used to eating the more refined grain foods.  In an effort to make it easier for you to serve more whole grain foods, I will be providing you with a new recipe each Wednesday for our "Whole Grain Wednesdays" columns.  My goal is to make these recipes quick and easy because I know that many of you are sometimes pressed for time.

I chose this first recipe because it is quick, easy, and also quite tasty.  My children love these biscuits and they love helping to cut them out.  The recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour which you might not be familiar with.  I love baking with whole wheat pastry flour because it gives the final product a much lighter and fluffier texture than regular whole wheat flour, and so it is perfect for breads, muffins, pancakes, etc.

I use the Bob's Red Mill variety which I buy at Sunflower Market.  I am sure there are other brands available though.

The other great thing about this recipe is that some of the butter has been replaced with canola oil, but the biscuits still come out tender and flaky. This simple substitution lowers the saturated ("bad")  fat content in the biscuits.  The canola oil has more of the "healthy" fats that we need in our diet.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup enriched all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cup lowfat buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly grease a sheet pan and set it aside.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Cut in the butter and the canola oil with your fingers or two knives until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  Pour in the buttermilk and stir it with a fork until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.  Lightly flour a counter, and scrape the dough out onto the counter.  Pat the dough into a circle (you may need to knead in a little flour if the dough is too sticky).  The dough should be in a circle about 3/4-inch thick.  Cut the dough into rounds using a small glass or cookie cutter.  Reassemble the scraps and cut them out as well (you will have about 12-16 biscuits).  Place the biscuits on the baking sheet and bake until they are light brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Crediting information:
Makes 30 servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 1-5 year old children. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Soup

I read somewhere that most people have about 8-10 standard main dishes that they eat all of the time.  I wonder if that is true?  I could see the appeal of doing that, it would make it much easier to shop for groceries!  I might be tempted to eat that way if I was only cooking for myself, but I really like to mix things up when feeding my family.  Variety really is a good thing when it comes to optimal nutrition, because greater variety in the foods that you eat ensures that you are getting all of the nutrients that you need.  With this in mind, I am always looking for new recipes to add to our recipe "rotation" so that we don't eat the same thing more than once per month. 

I found a yummy new recipe that I made for our weekly "soup and bread" night that would be a great recipe for a child care home.  I always try and make Monday's soup on Sunday so that the flavors have a chance to mix together when sitting in the refrigerator overnight.  I really think this improves the flavor of most soups!  This soup is called "taco soup" but it really reminded me more of chili than tacos.  It might be more like tacos if you choose to use all of the suggested garnishes, but I just served it with the shredded cheese.

Note: You can find bulgur in the bulk bins at Sunflower Market.  I have also seen it in the cooking aisle at my local King Soopers.

Taco Soup
4 cups water
1/2 cup bulgur
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon minced jarred garlic)
1 medium bell pepper, finely diced (you can use any color)
4 cups cooked pinto beans  (or 2, 16oz cans pinto beans drained and rinsed)
1 28oz can tomato puree
1 4oz can mild chopped green chilies
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Garnishes (optional)
shedded lowfat cheddar cheese
thinly shredded romaine lettuce
finely diced fresh tomatoes
tortilla chips

Bring 1 cup of the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the bulgur and stir.  Reduce the heat and cover the pan.  Simmer, covered for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot.  Add the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the garlic and the bell pepper and continue to saute, stirring, until all are golden.  Add the remaining ingredients (except the garnishes) plus the previously cooked bulgur to the pan.  Add the remaining 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Serve warm topped with garnishes as desired. 

Crediting information:  Makes 10 servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1 meat/meat alternate and 1 fruit/vegetable at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Avoiding Food Waste

I don't know about you, but I am a little apprehensive about recent reports that food prices will continue to rise in the next year.  I have a certain amount of money budgeted for food every month and I am sure many of you do too. So, I am not really thrilled about having to stretch my budget even more.   I do try very hard not to waste food and use up what I buy, but unfortunately most weeks I do end up throwing a little rotten food in the compost pile.  So, my new goal is to try and use up all of the leftovers in my fridge before they go bad!

My kids love the macaroni and cheese recipe from the Wildwood website recipe section.  This recipe calls for cottage cheese, which is something I don't use very often, and I always have about a cup leftover after I make the recipe.  My family doesn't like to eat cottage cheese by itself, so I am always looking for ways to use it up.  I went looking for a recipe this week to finish off the cottage cheese sitting in my fridge and I found a great one!  My family loved this recipe.  I love the fact that it contains nutrient-rich brown rice and is quick and easy to make!  This is also a great way to get some  whole grains in your childrens' diets so that they can "make half of their grains whole".  

Note: The cheapest place I have found to buy brown rice is in the bulk bins at Sunflower Market. 

Cheesy Brown Rice Casserole (adapted from Potpourri magazine)
2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup lowfat cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon dillweed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Stir gently until well mixed.  Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Crediting information: Makes 10 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 1-5 year old children. 

How do you use up leftovers?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Blast From the Past!

I recently had a provider email me to say that she had lost one of her kids' favorite muffin recipes that was published long ago in a Wildwood newsletter.  I was so happy to be able to dig up the recipe and send it to her.  Turns out it was originally published in 2001! 

I thought that I would share the recipe with all of you today.  You will have some leftover pumpkin after you make this recipe.  I like to use our pumpkin "leftovers" to stir into oatmeal for breakfast or for adding to soup or sauces.  These muffins would make a great snack, and they contain nutrient-rich pumpkin and "good" fats. 

Pumpkin Muffins (Wildwood newsletter October 2001)
1 1/2 cups enriched all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup lowfat or skim milk
1/2 cup pumpkin
3 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease the bottom of 10 muffin cups.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until moistened.  The batter will be lumpy.  Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  Remove muffins from pan to cool.

Crediting information: Makes 20 servings (10 muffins).  1/2 of a muffin is creditable as one bread/bread alternate for 1-5 year olds at any meal or snack. 


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One Important Way Home Child Care Providers Make a Difference

I love working for Wildwood because it is so rewarding to work with home child care providers!  One big reason for this is that home child care providers have such a great impact on the eating habits and diet of the children in their care.  They can help children learn about nutrition, and expose them to a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods that they might not have the opportunity to try at home.  Providers on our program teach children to have healthy eating habits that last a lifetime!

A couple of years ago we did a workshop addressing the influence of a child's diet on brain development in early childhood.  We know that a child's brain is growing the fastest in the first three years of life.  That is why what a child eats during this time is so important!   A new study that was recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health  gives more evidence to support just how important a healthy diet is.  The researchers found that if a child's diet was high in processed food (high in fats and sugars) at the age of 3 it caused a lower IQ later on in that child's life.  Surprisingly, even if a child's diet improved after age 3, there was no benefit to the IQ score (dietary patterns between the ages of 4 and 7 had no impact on the IQ).   The authors of the study suggest that these findings were due to the fact  that "good nutrition during the first three years of life may encourage optimal brain growth".

I just wanted to share this article and congratulate all of our providers who are participating in the Wildwood Child and Adult Care Food Program.  It helps to remind ourselves that while it may take a little more effort sometimes to prepare a healthy snack or meal rather than just serving more processed choices,  it is worth it for our kids' health and quality of life.  You are making a difference every day!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Quick Snack

I know that when I was a home child care provider, a quick snack was handy to have on a busy day.  If that snack also allowed the kids to be creative, even better!

Here is a quick snack idea that doubles as an art project.  I got the idea for these "egg heads" from Family Fun magazine:

These are super easy to make!  Simply slice a hard boiled egg and place each slice on a round cracker.  (We didn't have any round crackers so I used a cookie cutter to cut shapes from a whole wheat tortilla).  Then, allow the children to decorate their egg slices with eyes, noses, mouths, etc. made from whatever you have handy.  We used olives, chives, carrot bits, cherry tomatoes, celery leaves, and nuts. 

Use whole grain crackers if possible for a nutrient-rich snack!

Crediting information:  This snack is creditable for 1 meat/meat alternate and 1 bread/bread alternate at snack.  (using at least 1/4 of an egg and 10 grams (0.4 ounce) of crackers for 1-5 year old children).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

Baby it's cold outside!  Both of my kids were home today because school was cancelled due to the cold weather.  We keep our house on the colder side, so we decided to warm it up a little by making some muffins.  I had bought some fresh blueberries on sale this week at Sunflower market so we decided that blueberry muffins were in order!

We tried a new recipe for our muffins.  I really like this recipe because it doesn't have a lot of sugar in it, and it has nutrient-rich whole wheat flour in it.  We used whole wheat pastry flour because I find that it makes a more tender muffin, but the original recipe called for regular whole wheat flour so I am sure you can use either.  The recipe also says it makes 1 1/2 dozen regular muffins but we made 12 mini muffins and 12 regular muffins.  *Note: If you make some (or all) of the muffins mini, just remember to check on them sooner, ours were done in about 12 minutes.

The verdict was unanimous.  These muffins were delicious!

Blueberry Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
sprinkle of ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen blueberries do not thaw them)

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.   In a smaller bowl beat the eggs, buttermilk and oil together.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just moistened.  Fold in the blueberries gently.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to cool on wire racks.  Serve warm.

Crediting information: Makes 38 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate for children 1-5 years old at any meal or snack. 

Next time I will probably try and replace more of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour and see how it works out.

What is your kids' favorite muffin?

Monday, January 31, 2011

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines

The USDA released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines today.  I know, it is 2011, but at least they got them out by the end of January!  The USDA releases the Dietary Guidelines every 5 years.  They are based on the most current scientific knowledge about diet and disease, and they are also the basis for the familiar food guide pyramid (now known as "MyPyramid").  The guidelines are meant to help the American public improve their diets, and the USDA states that this is particularly important now in this "time of rising concern about the health of the American population".   More Americans are overweight and inactive than ever before and we are seeing increases in diabetes and other diseases as a result of poor diets.  These new guidelines are finally addressing the number one nutrition problem in this country which is obesity. 

Two concepts that are key in the new guidelines are that people need to:
1)  maintain calorie balance to achieve and sustain a healthy weight
 2) focus on nutrient-dense (also known as nutrient-rich) foods and beverages. (does this sound familiar?  Those of you who read this blog often know that I love to highlight nutrient-rich foods! )

What does this mean?  It means that as a country we need to eat less, and eat foods that are better for us.  We also need to limit foods that are nutrient-poor.

The USDA has also given some tips that people can use to apply the Dietary Guidelines advice to their everyday lives:
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free (skim) or 1% milk.
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals-and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
These are not all of the recommendations that are included in the new guidelines, but they are a great place to start!  Other recommendations are the same as they were in the 2005 guidelines: limit saturated and trans fats, reduce added sugars, make half of your grains whole, choose lowfat dairy products, eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. 

The new version of "MyPyramid" or whatever means they choose to help portray this message to the American public should be out in a few months.  Let's hope people are listening!   I will continue to highlight nutrient-rich foods on this blog, as well as giving you advice on limiting those foods that should make up only a small part of your diet and your kid's diets = "bad" fats, sodium, added sugars and refined grains!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Marvelous Mangoes!

My children really like fruit and most of the fruits that we eat they liked the first time they tried them.  (One exception to this is bananas, which my daughter liked as a baby but for whatever reason cannot stand now)!  Mangoes, on the other hand, took my kids awhile to take a shine to.  For my family, they definitely fit into the "offer a new food at least 10 times" before your child will like it category.  But now my kids love them and so I buy them often, usually when they are on sale.

Mangoes have been a good deal the last couple of weeks at my neighborhood King Soopers so I have been buying several a week.  I let them sit out on the kitchen cabinet until they are slightly soft to the touch and then add them to a fruit salad which is quite delicious!  If you don't usually buy mangoes because you don't know how to cut them up, give it a try.   It does take a minute to pit them but certainly takes less time than cutting up a fresh pineapple!  Another of our favorite things to do with mangoes is to make smoothies for an after school snack.

Here is my kids' favorite recipe:
Mango smoothie
3 mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar (or substitute honey for kids over 1 year of age)
1 tray ice cubes

1.Place the mangoes, lime juice, confectioners' sugar or honey, and ice cubes in a blender. Blend until slushy.

Mangoes are a nutrient-rich food!  One mango has only about 135 calories but supplies 4 grams of fiber and is high in vitamin C (96% of daily needs).  It is also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, potassium and copper.
What do you do with mangoes?